What's with the color 'purple'?

7:30:00 AM

So, I'm going to preface this post with this:

...this is not a rant, per se, but an observation I've made and been quite hypersensitive to as I try to work more on 'rainbow' type projects... bear with me... feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments below, I'd love to hear them...
image courtesy of Sweet & Lovely Life

Purples are pretty colors, no? I mean, I don't personally use a lot of them in my quilts, but I've been trying to expand and step out of my comfort zone with respect to palettes, and I really have found that I like purple.

I never really gave the color much thought before;  I'll be honest. It was never on my radar.

But then I started working with a lot more solids in my quilts (primarily, I'd say) and as I did, and started to play more with colors, shades and hues, I began to realize something.

The world of solid fabrics is seriously lacking in the purples department.

image courtesy of Caldwell Carpets
Here's an example:
Robert Kaufman's line of Kona brand solids had, up until their new launch of their 32 new colors, only 14 distinguishable purples* - i.e. - those that couldn't be mistaken for another color (you know, the ones you look at and think "is that purple, or pink/burgundy/blue?", etc.)

As a comparison, the same line has 35 distinguishable blues.

Poor purple.

image courtesy of Fashion Telegraph
To RK's defense, out of the 32 new colors this season, 5 of them are purples. Not bad!

But then I got to looking at my scrap bins.

My purple bin is nearly empty. It makes it tough when I'm making a scrappy something-or-other, and it just shouts out for a bit of regal-ness.

And then I look at my stash piles of purple prints. Another sad state of affairs.

So what is it about the color purple? It seems to be a pretty versatile color, since its hues range from on the red-side to on the blue-side. You'd think it'd be an easy-ish color to incorporate in a quilt.

I just wonder if:

  1. I'm just not attracted to lines of fabrics which have purple prints in them
  2. Purple is just not a popular color for designers to incorporate into their fabric lines
  3. Purple isn't an attractive enough color to use as quilters/sewists.
What do you all think? Am I out to lunch here? Or is purple getting the short end of the stick?


*Footnote: this obviously, is open to interpretation. What you might call blue, I might call purple. I tried to be as critical as possible when determining these numbers.

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  1. I love purple! I have, however, found it hard to use because it's such a "pow" color. If i'm using jewel tones it's perfect, and if i'm using pastels it's perfect, but the in-between shades are hard to fit in. I've also found it's hard to find purple prints that I like, or they just won't work because they are a funky purple. Purple has definitely been a neglected color. I'm happy to see it becoming more popular. By the by, Shabby fabrics has some beautiful bundles of purple (on sale today), I was thinking of grabbing one even before I saw your post. I guess that's my next stop!

  2. Have always loved purple. To many people stick to safe colors (ex. blue).

  3. I've really started to use a lot more purple in recent years. I think mainly because it is my munchkin's favorite color. This last year I started a star quilt with purple stars and white backgrounds and found I had to go shopping for purples. Now I have a lot, but I agree, it is a lot easier to find a nice blue than it is to find a nice purple that I don't already have.

  4. Purple can be difficult to build into home decor without it taking over. The most popular colour worldwide is blue (hence the plethora of blues) and in some cultures purple symbolises illness and death. I like to look at it but do not buy it often for things I make- I do wear it a lot though.

  5. Purple is the favorite color of me, my mom and my daughter..so I have sewn with lots of purples over the years...interesting observations!

  6. Hi Erin, I love purple (and damson, plum and lilac....) My second quilt was almost all purples. I blogged about it here.
    I have to steer myself away from purple in fabric shops. It's an addiction!

  7. Purple is my favorite color! I usually find pretty purples in batik fabrics. However, since I don't sew with solids (yet) I hadn't noticed that manufacturers' of solids have neglected purple. I will notice now!

  8. I have made several all-purple quilts as well as incorporating them into other quilts. Since purple is one of my favorite colors, I have a bit of a stash of it :) Sometimes it doesn't play well with other colors...always seem to have a red-leaning purple when I need a blue-leaning purple or vice versa!

  9. I love the colour purple! And I do have a lot of purple prints in my stash. I do understand how you can shy away from a certain color. Mine is definitely orange. I have just started to buy a few orange prints to add to my stash. I have made quilts with purple, green, blue and teal prints and just love how it has turned out.

  10. I don't know whether to blame manufacturers or store buyers when I can't find colors. I have a lot of purples--gathered over the years. At one time I was told that fabric manufacturers hold back on a color or its relatives till we really hunger for it; then it appears in next year's lines.

  11. I like purple but it doesn't look good on me, I have tried several time over the years, and the purple just does something to me.. My blonde baby wore purple all the time my brown hair baby just looked washed out when I put her in purple. There is something about purple, if you get too much in a quilt it takes over, if its too light it washes out... floral tend to make it muddy looking to me from a distance. And purple don't play well with other purples every purple is an shade of it own and doesn't ever match anything else in my stash...

  12. I've heard so many quilters say there is no purple to be found in fabrics these days. But I think it's bizarre as I see purple fabrics All the Time. Maybe because I've heard so many people say there aren't any, each time there's more, I think, there's another one. I do have to say about solids though, I still think that there isn't a great bright purple in Kona's. Deep purple, light purples yes but not bright. It's the same for yellows though. The only yellow that is a bright and true yellow (without orange, brown, green, or so much white that its pastel) is Citrus.

  13. Purple is one of my favorite colors, but I may be influenced by the fact that I live in Minnesota, land of the Vikings. The problem I have with the color is the extreme variation in shades and hues. Viking purple looks very blue, while some of the fabric I've purchase that was listed as purple looks more wine or burgundy. Other purples have a strong grey or yellow undertone. All this makes it difficult to coordinate solids with prints that contain purple when you're purchasing fabrics online.

  14. I do not like purple, why I don't know. But have had to adjust because my Granddaughter loves purple and wants a quilt with purple in it. How much purple it yet to be decided.

    Patricia C

  15. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that purple is such an "UN-distinguishable" color. You're right, so many purples could also be called Burgundy, or Navy/Blue, or most often - PINK. My husband and I are ALWAYS arguing over whether a certain color is pink or purple. Ticket to Ride, anyone? Yeah - I always vote purple. He always votes pink. It's a real problem. :)

  16. the fabrics just aren't out there. when I've been buying fabric online, I try to add an FQ or two of purple to my order as I have so few of them in my stash. It's really hard to do! I love purple and think it's really versatile.

  17. I think it might be correlated with the same issues of red. There's just so many shades, and some are reddish purple, some are blueish purple, so it can be hard to use in a collection. Also, there might be more to dying fabric purple than blue or orange. It might need a stronger process or something. I've seen some previews of fabric lines that have more purples in them (since that was the color of the year and all) so maybe there's some hope on the horizon. :)


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